When C.J. and Kaitlyn Gustafson got married in December 2018, the couple knew they wanted to start their own business.
“We both come from families of small business owners,” says C.J. “My background is in finance, and Kaitlyn’s is in marketing. We felt confident that we could build a good business.”
When the couple went to Hawaii for their honeymoon, the idea for Bubba Booking was born.
“We’re both pretty active,” says C.J., “and we wanted to go on tours of the islands or go snorkeling or sailing, but there was no easy way to find out what we could do on short notice.”
Wouldn’t it be great to go online and find all the possibilities that still had space available, even at the last minute?
A couple months later, in February 2019, C.J. and Kaitlyn started Bubba Booking (named for C.J.’s childhood pet, a sheltie/border collie mix). “We came to the Pinellas beaches because we had been here before and loved it,” says Kaitlyn. “We also knew there were lots of things for tourists to do, but not an easy way for them to find out about them, especially if they didn’t book their activities till they got here.”
“At the larger hotels, a concierge might help guests find things to do,” adds C.J., “but the hotels don’t know about availability. Bubba Booking fills in all the blanks.”
C.J. points out that many activity operators (jet ski rentals, dolphin tour operators, pub crawls, etc.) sometimes run at just 60% to 70% of capacity. They use word-of-mouth, and pamphlets at area hotels, to advertise their services, but vacationers have no way of knowing about availability until they call.
In late 2019, Bubba Booking started matching vacationers with events using their online platform. “Talk about heavy lifting!” says C.J. “We had to contact businesses to register with us, and find ways of reaching tourists. We developed our website, and even a mobile app, so people could have us with them wherever they went.”
An online visit to Bubba Booking allows vacationers to quickly find activities close to their accommodations, and to book their tickets online. No rushing to get to an anticipated adventure, only to find the last ticket had just been sold, or that they miss a tour while their payment is processed. It’s a “shop one and done” online experience.
“Florida is an ideal market for us,” observes C.J. “We’re looking at other areas, too, that have a high volume of tourist traffic.”
Kaitlyn and C.J. say that their highest traffic comes from families looking for things to do on the spur of the moment. Still, Pinellas County attracts a diverse tourist base, so they have been careful to include events that appeal to singles and senior adults, too.
“When people come to our beaches, they know when their flights arrive and depart, and how many days their hotel reservations are for. It’s all the time from arrival to departure, though, that makes the vacation memorable. Bubba Booking is there to make sure people have plenty of chances to make their memories.”